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Recreational Drugs and Arsenic Toxicity

Recreational Drugs and Arsenic Toxicity

Recreational Drugs and Arsenic Toxicity

At some point in our lives, we've all been tempted to sneak a treat from the metaphorical cookie jar of recreational substances. From cigarettes to weed to psychedelics, these experiments in cognitive alteration may have different motivations – social bonding, stress relief, or even a strive towards addiction. The youth and adult demographics are increasingly exploring various methods of consuming such compounds, blurring the lines of traditional recreational drug use.

However, the prevalence of this behavior should not be mistaken for safety or acceptability. Many of these substances harbor hidden dangers in the form of toxins, irrespective of the source. Particularly, they may contain toxic heavy metals like arsenic, even if naturally derived.

Regardless of the source, whether a plant like cannabis or a manufactured substance, the potential risks associated with these recreational drugs remain. Thus, it becomes pivotal to be conscientious of what we ingest or inhale. Being lax about this can inevitably pave the way for significant health issues down the road.

The importance of quality sourcing can't be overstated when considering recreational drug use. This is why today, we've decided to shine a spotlight on a burgeoning issue - the escalating incidence of toxicity detected in hair tests. These tests, specifically designed to measure the presence of toxins in our bodies, have begun to reveal alarming levels of arsenic in individuals who opt for these mind-altering substances.


What is a Hair Test?

Let's first venture into understanding what a hair test is. Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA), as it's formally known, is a form of tissue biopsy. The procedure involves extracting approximately an inch of hair as near as possible to the nape of the neck. This sample is then evaluated for the various minerals and metals excreted into the hair strands. In essence, HTMA measures how efficiently your body is eliminating these substances, offering crucial insights into our health.

An HTMA can shed light on potential deficiencies or toxicities in our body, offering detailed reports on the health and efficiency of various vital systems. These include our thyroid, adrenal glands, nervous system, immune system, and endocrine system, even reaching to provide data on our blood sugar levels. Essentially, it is a comprehensive examination of our body's internal workings, specifically focusing on toxins and mineral content.

Shifting our focus onto recreational drugs such as cigarettes, cannabis, or psychedelics, a common element has started to emerge despite their differences in manufacturing methods and effects on users. Recent anomalies have shown that a considerable number of these products tend to contain traces of arsenic. This toxic heavy metal, while occurring naturally in the environment, has catastrophic health implications when consumed or inhaled in large quantities. Increasingly, studies are revealing its presence not only in the traditional sources like soil and water but alarmingly in the very substances many of us use for recreation.


Is There Arsenic in Recreational Drugs?

Arsenic, an insidious heavy metal, had quite an intriguing journey through history. Originally, it was employed as a therapeutic agent for a range of disorders, including diabetes, psoriasis, syphilis, and skin ulcers. It was even used to alleviate joint diseases. Surprisingly, in modern medicine, arsenic finds use in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia.

However, it's imperative to bear in mind that while it has therapeutic uses, arsenic's toxicity is contingent upon its dose. As an old adage goes, "the dose makes the poison." Couched in historical context, there's a widely held theory that Napoleon Bonaparte met his demise due to prolonged exposure to arsenic. Perhaps choosing not to share Napoleon's destiny would be wise. Acute arsenic toxicity can manifest in various ways, including nausea, diarrhea, a burning sensation in the mouth and throat, vomiting, and abdominal pain. On the other hand, chronic arsenic toxicity, which results from steady, small increments of arsenic over time, is a more subtle but equally sinister affliction. Symptoms can range from dermatitis, respiratory tract infections, muscle aches, and headaches to more serious conditions like hyperpigmentation of the skin, neuropathy, anemia, pigmentation of nails, drowsiness, confusion, and an escalated risk of skin, lung, and liver cancers.

The distinguishing factor between acute and chronic toxicity lies in the dosage and timeline. Acute toxicity stems from a large, single exposure that incapacitates the body's ability to process the heavy metal, leading to immediate intoxication. Chronic toxicity, however, stealthily invades your body over time, accumulating unnoticed until symptoms begin to surface, undermining your health silently but surely.


Does Arsenic Appear in Cigarettes, Weed, and Psychedelics?

While substances such as cigarettes, cannabis, and psychedelics offer varied experiences and come from diverse sources, they share a common and potentially dangerous component - arsenic. This heavy metal often finds its way into these substances, sometimes in high concentrations, posing severe health risks to users.

The presence of arsenic in these popular recreational substances requires a detailed understanding to recognize the potential dangers we might unwittingly expose ourselves to. Subsequently, we will delve into how arsenic seeps into these products and why their seemingly innocuous consumption could lead down a hazardous road.



The health risks associated with cigarette smoking are extensively documented and understood. There is a consensus that smoking is severely harmful — a known carcinogen with a plethora of additional toxins, including arsenic. To illustrate the point, numerous studies corroborate a robust correlation between arsenic toxicity, cancer, and cigarette smoking.

Moreover, the menace of arsenic is not confined to conventional cigarettes. Emerging evidence suggests that e-cigarettes or vapes, are also significant contributors to increased arsenic exposure, particularly among young people. One such study finds an alarming presence of six different forms of arsenic in a third of the tested e-cigarette products.

With such findings, it is clear that regardless of the form, inhalation of cigarette or vape smoke is not just about nicotine. Users are unknowingly inhaling numerous harmful substances, including arsenic, contributing to a host of potential health issues. It underlines the need for better understanding and awareness of the deleterious components in these popular products.



Now turning our spotlight onto cannabis, one could understandably question how a plant-based substance like marijuana could harbor arsenic. The answer lies not in the plant itself, but in the agricultural practices governing its cultivation.

Many growers may overlook key agricultural procedures such as crop rotation, soil remineralization, and refraining from pesticide use. Unfortunately, the absence of these sensible practices creates an environment where soil tends to absorb and retain heavy metals more readily.

Subsequently, once a cannabis seed is sowed, the maturing plant draws sustenance from this heavy-metal-laden soil. This results not only in plants rich in intended nutrients but also those heavy metals, arsenic included, leading to contaminated cannabis. Thus, it's not the cannabis plant inherently posing a risk; instead, the danger lies in its cultivation process and soil management, as outlined in a comprehensive study by Penn State University.



Finally, we arrive at psychedelics, an umbrella term encompassing a wide variety of hallucinogens. It's been discovered that these substances, too, can contain substantial levels of arsenic. However, much like cannabis, this ties back to the conditions under which they are cultivated.

If these substances are procured from independent growers employing organic soil and taking care to remineralize their crops, then there's relatively little cause for concern. But, given that these drugs can be pricey and, in some cases, out of reach due to governmental regulations, sourcing from such quality growers may not always be feasible.

Particularly in the case of psilocybin mushrooms, or 'shrooms' as they're informally known, the potential for heightened metal toxicity exists. These fungi are renowned for their ability to absorb elements from their surroundings, more so than average plants. This property stems from the unique nature of fungi, functioning differently compared to herbs, leading to them potentially amassing more arsenic.


Solutions and Prevention

Given the presence of arsenic in these substances, one might wonder about mitigating strategies if one still chooses to use them. Maintaining adequate levels of sulfur and selenium is crucial, as both minerals naturally counteract arsenic in the body. To ensure sufficient sulfur intake, consume a protein-rich diet including red meat, eggs, and pork, and incorporate sulfur-rich vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, and garlic.

Supplementing with selenium is another consideration, such as using a product like Upgraded Formulas Selenium. Additionally, vitamins E and C have also been shown to antagonize arsenic, further fortifying the body against its toxic effects.

While maintaining a heightened awareness of the potential risks associated with these substances is essential, it is possible to take proactive steps to minimize the impact of ingesting arsenic by focusing on these specific nutrients and supplements.



In conclusion, recreational drug use necessitates an informed approach to truly understand and mitigate potential risks. While exploring cognitive alteration through substances like cigarettes, cannabis, and psychedelics, it's essential to recognize that these products can, and often do, contain disturbing levels of toxins such as arsenic. Whether naturally derived or not, the existence of arsenic in these substances is a cause for genuine concern. Therefore, ensuring quality sourcing and employing supplementary strategies to counteract arsenic toxicity, like maintaining adequate levels of sulfur, selenium, and vitamins E and C, is paramount. While we acknowledge the alluring nature of such experiments in cognition, equipping yourself with knowledge about these potential dangers allows you to take back control over your health. Always remember, knowledge is power and the first step to a healthy life, high on wellness.

If you are apprehensive about your sulfur and selenium levels, or are interested in determining whether you have arsenic toxicity, the optimal method of measurement is through the HTMA that we discussed previously. Therefore, if you're prepared to delve deeper into your health and gain invaluable insights, order your test kit today and schedule a consultation with our healthcare specialist.

Barbara Madimenos
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach

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